Tag Archives: free-range chicken

A weekend with the (Bohemian) Village People

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I have just spent a weekend with the Village People.

Not the 70’s pop group responsible for wave-your-hands-in-the-air disco classics like YMCA you understand. The Village People is my nickname for Czechman’s family.

It’s one of those jokes that’s only really funny when you tell it to other native speakers. Like when I christened my previous employer ‘Bell-End School of Languages’ and received only a mystified look from Czechman when I couldn’t stop giggling at my own comic brilliance.

It’s sad when you have to resort to laughing at your own jokes. And don’t ask me to explain ‘bell-end’ – one of my subscribers is a man of the cloth. He might be offended.

Going to the village means being spoilt. Just in case you don’t believe me, here’s a list of items we brought home with us:

two jars of homemade marmelade
one large jar of cooked pumpkin chunks
organic goat’s cheese from the nearby goat farm
two giant homemade kolaches
two portions of chicken in red pepper sauce complete with homemade dumplings
two portions of potato and mushroom soup (homemade obviously)
a brand new cake tin (I mentioned that I wanted to make a cake for Czechman’s birthday)
twenty eggs laid by Babička Jedná’s hens – and therefore organic of course
four rohliky (white bread rolls) “because we already have bread and otherwise what will you eat this evening?”

What would we eat indeed.

The Village People ask for little in return for all this five star treatment except our presence. They are patient with my rubbish (but improving) Czech. When I bring a little ringbinder with copies of the articles I’ve recently had published, they ask lots of questions and try to understand the headlines and say I am ‘šikovna’.

This is becoming one of my favourite Czech words. It roughly translates as ‘skilful’ or perhaps ‘talented’ but you don’t have to do a great deal to gain this accolade. Czechman’s infant niece is described as ‘šikovná’ because she can roll onto her belly despite the fact she can’t manage to get back up again and starts bawling. Czechman has failed to bake the pernik (a sort of gingerbread) his Mum showed him how to make but according to her he is still ‘šikovný’ because he managed to buy some from the shop instead. I am also ‘šikovná’ because I can speak Czech (badly), French (well, I could at least) ‘and you also speak English!’

Czechman claims I am an arsekisser. He even taught me the word in Czech for this but now I’ve forgotten it.

It’s true of course. I bring a scarf I am knitting for his Lord Czechness – it’s very long – and receive crochet lessons. Czechman’s mum and I discuss the merits of knitting baby clothes versus adult garments (quicker to finish, more economical) and she is amused (or bemused) that I used to knit on the Tube in London, much to Czechman’s chagrin and dismay. I say how pleased I was that Czechman’s little niece wore the cardigan I made her to her citizenship ceremony. Apparently, they didn’t have anything else equally ‘nobl’. In contrast, I think the things I knit for my English nephew get shoved in a drawer somewhere.

It was a lovely weekend. Ordinary but lovely. My favourite memory is sitting on a bench next to Babička Jedná in her garden in the sunshine while Czechman was sprawled out on the lawn having fed the chickens freshly cut grass. I made Babička laugh by saying what a pale Angličanka I was. I don’t think that’s likely to change soon, given the fact it’s done nothing but rain ever since we got back to Prague. At least if the floods make their way here from Moravia and we’re trapped at home, we’ll have plenty to eat.

The village zámek (castle or stately home)

Feeding goats at the goat farm. 'Kozí' (goat) has a cheeky double meaning in Czech...

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Meat

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sausage-man4They have Tesco here, but not as we know it.  A trip to the meat counter reveals a selection of the usual offerings in those plastic trays: pork chops, chicken thighs and big red chunks of beef ready for roasting.  Alongside these, I see items that are less common back home: a cow’s tongue, neatly coiled up so it fits into the rectangular container, two dozen chicken necks which looked like skinned babies’ arms with the hands sliced off and a whole rabbit, also flayed but not boned so it still retains its original rabbit like shape, minus the head and ears.  Nothing is organic so there’s no hope of finding a free-range chicken so I’m forced to pick up a battery-reared one for sixty crowns: less than three pounds.  I know its plumpness is all fat rather than real meat; it will dissolve in the roasting tin to a dried up carcass.

 

The picture you can see of a man happily sucking up a sausage is on display in the butchers next to our flat.  Below him there is a pile of pigs trotters.  Offal is very fashionable in London these days.  Fergus Henderson made his name selling the concept of ‘nose to tail’ eating to metropolitan diners at the St John in Clerkenwell.  Czech Man tried to take me there once as a surprise but they were fully booked even on a Tuesday night.  I probably had a lucky escape.  The smell of offal makes me want to heave.

 

When I went to Czech Man’s parents for the weekend, his mum welcomed us with fried potato pancakes which were arranged in a little basket on the table and sausages.  The sausages were those long skinny frankfurters which she served to us on a plate with two blobs of mustard next to them. We ate them with our hands, dipping the sausage into the mustard before biting into it.  I felt just as surprised as the man in the picture about this new way of consuming questionable meat products but I chomped it down regardless.

 

When I come out of the tube on my way home the first thing I notice is the aroma coming from the hot dog stall.  One day I’ll probably give in and buy one, but somehow I know they can’t taste as good as they smell.

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